It’s been a few days, but I feel the need to address this post because I can’t stop thinking about it, and what it means to me as an aromantic person.
The purpose of the quote (which comes from a blog post called “Down with Love”), is to explain how romance and romantic feelings don’t ruin a female character. I understand the intentions of this post are to combat harmful stereotypes about what a female character should look like, but what it actually does is harm people in my community including myself.
To start, I am an aromantic asexual woman. I don’t experience romantic feelings or feel romantically attracted to someone, nor do I experience sexual attraction. I don’t feel the need for it. That’s okay! However, this doesn’t mean I don’t experience other forms of love, such as caring deeply for friends and family in an unconditional manner. This doesn’t mean I don’t experience any vulnerabilities or emotions, as I have my own vulnerabilities and insecurities. This doesn’t make me a robot. This doesn’t mean I’m less human. People experience emotions differently.
As I’m not particularly invested in the specific subject matter of the original blog post (Game of Thrones), I’m just going to address parts of the quote that harm me, and people like me.
Repeat after me, folks: romantic plotlines don’t ruin female characters.
I agree with this, but also consider that romantic love isn’t the only thing a female character is capable of and can feel. The idea that everyone must experience romantic love and that this makes us normal and human, is called amatonormativity. It’s an inaccurate understanding of human experiences, and while romantic plotlines don’t ruin female characters (depending on how they’re structured), neither do non-romantic plotlines!
A female character isn’t weak because she has normal human emotions. She isn’t anti-feminist because she has vulnerabilities.
Once again, I agree. However, being that this quote is centered on romantic feelings, the implication here is that if she doesn’t experience romantic feelings, she has no normal human emotions nor vulnerabilities. That then makes her less human. I understand and agree with the following sentiment:
There’s a difference between a female character existing entirely to be in love with the male character and a female character who happens to have a romantic subplot as part of her story.
…but then the next part bolsters my feelings that this quote upholds an inaccurate and problematic amatonormative perspective on humanity:
It isn’t feminist to insist that female characters have to be “badass” unfeeling robots, detached from absolutely anything considered “feminine,” including, apparently, emotions.
If you’re trying to argue that romance doesn’t hurt female characters, by suggesting that not having romantic feelings makes you less human, you’re still hurting female characters! A woman who rejects femininity, and romantic feelings, is no less human or robotic. (And really, if you think humans have to be hard wired for romance, that seems very robotic to me.)
Even then, femininity does not equal “romance,” though it might more often be associated with tender emotions. People who are aromantic, including myself, can still be feminine. Rejecting romance does not mean rejecting femininity. Rejecting romance and femininity, does not mean rejecting human emotions or simply not having them. I have many human emotions, they’re just incredibly devalued by a society whose emphasis on my worth as a human is placed on my ability to experience romantic love and sexual attraction.
Sure, we don’t want female characters to be damsels in distress, but swinging in the other direction, to cardboard-cutout-badass-making-quips, isn’t much better.
Women who are in distress and need help are still women. Women who can stand on their own, and don’t need help are still women. Insisting that women be one thing and one thing only or idealizing what women should look and act like is still problematic and a huge issue with feminism today! What we need to do, is to focus more on challenging problematic perspectives that force women into boxes - that limit what they can be. We’re not going to do that if we insist that women can’t be a damsel in distress or a “badass.”
Also, I appreciate it, but not being able to experience romantic feelings doesn’t necessarily make someone a “badass.” It just happens to be how some of us are. We can do “badass” things, and be anywhere on the spectrum of experiences in regards to love. That’s part of acknowledging that women can be many things all at once. They can be complex, whether they experience romantic feelings or not.
Good female characters appear human. And sorry, romance-haters, but love is a part of that
This is really the straw that broke the camel’s back for me, because it proves to me that this is an amatonormative analysis of female characters. No no no, good female characters can be anything!What matters is how they are positioned within the structure of a story and how we choose to view them as a society based on the restrictive values we’ve grown up with (but seldom challenged).
Sorry, people who would rather dehumanize aromantic people in order to argue the importance of a romantic plotline, but romantic love is not the end all be all and aromantic women exist